Last month at SXSW, Nokia launched Ideasproject, a website to gather ideas for mobile phone apps. Though the site welcomes ideas for any type of app, it also featured specific challenges for apps with altruistic purposes. The first Nokia challenge of this kind concluded a few weeks ago and amassed a collection of feasible ideas for world-improving apps. The winner, David Murray, suggested manufacturing an app that informed socially conscious shoppers of the origins of products. This could include notifying users about the conditions of workers producing the goods and alerting them to genetically modified ingredients in packaged food.
Since then, Nokia has launched the Apps for Change challenge. Another philanthropic contest, this challenge suggests categories like people, business, environment, and entertainment. The contest, which runs until April 30th, is hoping to make apps part of the solution for big problems like unemployment, illness, poverty, and climate change. Website users vote for the ideas they like best, suggesting high demand for an app and, therefore, increasing the likelihood of it being manufactured. Currently, the idea with the highest number of votes is for an app that alerts people to natural disasters about to occur. The app could also provide survival instructions and emit a signal that would function as a beacon for rescuers.
Another contest on Nokia’s Ideasproject site is the Beyond Earth Hour Challenge. Inspired by the global environmental campaign to turn off lights for one hour on March 26th, Nokia’s contest is looking for app ideas that could save the planet. With almost two weeks left, the contest has generated dozens of environmentally beneficial ideas. Some submissions build on traditional eco-friendly approaches, such as apps to improve car pooling or monitor one’s carbon footprint. Other ideas have been more inventive: one user suggested an app to notify and educate pregnant women in developing countries about important medical milestones in their prenatal care.
Winners of Ideasprojects challenges either receive an “ideators” credit or a Nokia mobile device, and in the case of the Apps for Change contest, Nokia will donate $10,000 to a charity. Overall, though, Nokia is clearly the big winner. Users of the website not only provide Nokia with ideas for apps but also with a sense of what the booming market wants. Are the “ideators” being taken advantage of here? Would better prizes entice more sophisticated and feasible ideas? How could app contests attract amateur app designers with more advanced expertise?